How to Design a Successful Ceremony
Excerpted from THE BOOK OF CEREMONY: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life, by Sandra Ingerman. Sounds True, October 2018. Reprinted with permission.
Here is a summary of elements to incorporate in designing a ceremony. This summary includes bringing friends and loved ones and your community into the work.
- Keep It Short The most powerful ceremonies are those where you open the door to the invisible realms and state your intention and keep the ceremony to the point. A key to a successful ceremony is concentration and focus. If you create a long and complex ceremony, participants tend to lose interest, lose focus, and start to drift away. The ceremony then loses power.
- Prepare Do your preparation work. Make sure you call in your helping and compassionate spirits as well as the helping ancestral compassionate spirits of the land. Give thanks to the helping spirits to guide you in your words as you speak and lead a powerful and healing ceremony.
- Set a Clear Intention Be clear on the intention of the ceremony. In performing a ceremony, your intention is heard by the helping spirits and the power of the universe. These helping spiritual forces work in partnership with you to manifest your desire. Consult with your helping spirits to make sure your wording reflects the intention that is for the highest good.
- Create an Altar As mentioned, you can create an altar at home or in nature. You can even just bring flowers. You can invite people to bring or leave objects on the altar. Remind them to take their precious objects home at the end unless they are consciously left as a gift for the land. You can choose to work with elaborate decorations to create sacred space or simply just speak from your heart.
- Greet Participants When working in a group, welcome each participant personally into the circle. This will help you to relax and make people feel welcomed as they step into doing something that might feel unknown or a little scary to them. The simple act of greeting each person with a smile dissolves suspicions.
- Be Confident in Your Opening Words When leading a group ceremony, prepare your opening sentence. Once you state your opening sentence, you will find your inner spirit speaking through you. Put on an air of confidence even if you are nervous. If you do not seem confident, a group you are leading will not feel safe and will not fully participate in the ceremony. They will observe without fully participating.
- The Opening Invocation Lead an opening invocation to get people to move their energy from their thinking mind into their heart and to welcome each person into the circle. Ask people to take some deep breaths while placing their hands on their heart and welcoming each person into the circle while wishing for the best outcome for everyone who has joined the ceremony. Your opening invocation needs to end with letting everyone know that the work is beginning now.
- Release Your Burdening Thoughts Invite people to leave their ordinary thoughts and concerns behind and to fully join in and not just observe. You can get people into the right place by leading inspirational songs or playing musical instruments to open their heart. In some ceremonies, I set out a big bowl or drum and invite people to place something that represents an anchor to their ordinary world that needs to be released before stepping into ceremonial space. This might be a piece of jewelry, a watch, a cell phone, or a paper with a burden written on it. Participants take back their possessions once the ceremony has been closed.
- Give Clear Instructions Explain the steps of the ceremony you will be leading. In this way, people know what to expect, and this helps them maintain a focus.
- Invite People to Pray Before closing the ceremony, open a space for people to share prayers, asking that the goodness of the ceremony may radiate to others and the world. This is also a time to thank everyone who participated and helped create the ceremony.
- Inspire Your Community Close by thanking the helping spirits and saying inspiring words to your community. Your helping spirits will give you healing words to end with, just listen to their guidance as you speak. Make sure everyone in the community is grounded.
- Sharing Messages Leave some space for participants to share messages that came through the helping spirits during the ceremony or to share omens that might have been seen during a ceremony. A compassionate spirit might share a message with a participant such as “learn to love yourself,” “trust,” “we love you,” “you are protected,” “remember to shine your light,” “don’t lose hope,” “miracles are possible,” “trust your intuition,” “focus on the beauty of life,” “honor and respect all of life,” “let your tears flow,” and so on. People might also wish to share feelings that came up during the ceremony.
- Celebrate If you are working with a group, you can serve refreshments after the ceremony, so people can meet each other and talk about the work. This is a perfect time for adding a grounding practice.
The magic of ceremony is being able to leave your ordinary life behind and step into a sacred space. In this space, you can truly participate with others who are opening their hearts along with you to create positive change and help the stated intention manifest.
Make sure that your intention for your ceremonies carries the energy of love, honor, and respect. Please do not perform any ceremonies out of wanting vengeance or to curse someone. This is not what the evolution of shamanism is about. Performing ceremonies should only be used for healing and to share love, light, support, honor, and respect.
About the Author:
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is an award winning author of twelve books, including The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life (October 2018; Sounds True). She is a world-renowned teacher of shamanism and has been teaching for more than 30 years. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture, addressing the needs of our times. For more information, please visit https://sandraingermanbooks.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.